Here’s the good news: The Associated Supermarket in Crown Heights that closed over the summer will be back.
The bad news: Shoppers will be waiting at least three years for its return.
Until then, the nearest supermarkets are at least half a mile away.
“Our elected officials would like to say that this was such a win-win for the community,” said Alicia Boyd, a community activist who helped organize the “Save Associated” campaign. “But really what people need to reflect upon is how they refuse to address right now the void that exists in the community of not having this supermarket.”
The store at the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Sullivan Place closed in August, just before the property was sold to an affiliate of the Hudson Companies Inc., which is redeveloping the site for mixed-income housing.
Hudson says it will honor the 15-year lease Associated signed with the previous owner ahead of the sale and is consulting with the supermarket about the design of the space. Hudson also says it is planning to participate in the city’s Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program, which gives incentives including tax breaks and permission to build taller buildings in exchange for leasing space to grocery stores.
The Associated store will remain closed until the development, still in the planning stages, is complete. That pushes the reopening to fall 2024 at the soonest.
“We’re going into a food desert,” said Fred Baptiste, chair of Brooklyn Community Board 9, which includes Crown Heights. “We need a comprehensive solution so there’s always affordable food options in the district.”
“It’s very inconvenient,” says Sandrea Muchett, a nurse who has lived in the area for 28 years. She previously shopped at the Associated Foods, and now says she goes to the Key Food on Nostrand Avenue or to the Western Beef at Empire Boulevard and Franklin Avenue.
“Western Beef is so far,” said Keran Hemley, who lives and works in the area as a home health aide. “The elderly can’t walk that far. And even for their home care to walk that far—it’s taking a lot of the time away from the client.”
Baptiste said the board is looking into emergency and long-term solutions. That includes a partnership with the nonprofit GrowNYC. Its Farmstand program provides fresh produce outside the former Associated site on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Board 9 officials said the Farmstand site is currently set to run through December. GrowNYC has not confirmed a timeline.
“We anticipate by January it will be gone. It’s just a token kind of thing,” said Boyd, who would like to see a more permanent solution, but is not hopeful a new store will open anytime soon.
Crown Heights has higher rates of food insecurity than the average for New York, according to the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College., which provides information on available food resources in Crown Heights and beyond.
With many city, state and federal pandemic-aid programs ending, advocates focused on food insecurity are concerned about what happens in the immediate future.
“It’s a sad day when you live in the wealthiest city in the world but people are starving and can’t put food on the table,” said Boyd.